Battle of Gettysburg – Day 3
July 3, 1863
“There are times when a corps commander’s life does not count.”Major General Winfield Hancock, after being told by an aide to take cover during the artillery barrage on the positions of II Corps.
At twelve o’clock midnight, on July 3, 1863, the Army of the Potomac’s commander, Major General George Meade, met with his generals and consulted them on what the army should do next. The previous day’s fighting had been rough on the army and they had taken heavy casualties, severely weakening many of their infantry corps.
Not only that, their position on Culp’s Hill, on the far right flank of the Union line, was compromised after brigades from Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s Second Corps occupied the abandoned Union breastworks in the area.
Because of the Confederate presence in this position, the Army of the Potomac’s nearby supply base, as well as its line of communication along the Baltimore Pike, would be threatened if any powerful strike was made to push back their forces.
Yesterday had been a close fight, and they were lucky to have survived and hold the line, despite the disastrous events that had occurred. The question now was, could they survive another day?
Having felt the effects of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s heavy attacks, and finding that their positions were starting to become difficult to hold, Meade asked his generals if they should stay in their positions south of Gettysburg or if they should withdraw the army and find another place to fight at.
To his generals, there was no doubt what they should do; they wanted to stay and fight. In the ensuing meeting, it was agreed that they would hold their positions and wait for the Confederates to attack them. However, if the enemy chose not to attack, then the army would contemplate the possibility of being the one to strike the enemy.
Meade, however, felt that the Confederates would attack, yet he was unsure where it would be. Reviewing his positions, he sensed that a possible assault may occur on the Union center, along Cemetery Ridge where II Corps was placed. But he also remembered the intense fighting that occurred near the Round Top hills, and worried that a breakthrough there would result in the capture of his other line of communication along the Taneytown road. This meant that the loss of the left would not only result in the collapse of the Union line, but would also leave the army trapped, as the southern line of retreat would be blocked.
They had been lucky in the area yesterday, but today he wasn’t going to take any chances. Reinforcing the line, he sent additional brigades and artillery to support Union troops in the area. He also sent additional reinforcements to Culp’s Hill, in order to help XII Corps defend their positions on the Union right.
On the other side of the field, General Robert Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, also contemplated what to do next.
The attacks yesterday had been powerful enough to make the Union lines bleed, but they lacked the time and coordination needed to fully succeed.
The fighting had started late in the afternoon, and this resulted in nightfall saving some Union forces, as the Confederates were unable to further push their advantages. This is most especially true for the battle at Culp’s Hill, where brigades under the Second Corps had their enemy on the ropes, but were unable to push further because of the dimming light.
Because of these factors, Lee decided to make a morning attack against the Union forces. His corps would strike at the same places, but now there would be more time and better coordination.
While the predawn darkness still reigned at around four thirty, the morning was greeted by the powerful sounds of artillery firing. However, this artillery did not come from any Confederate battery, but instead from the Union guns of XII Corps. The previous day, Confederate forces had captured some of the breastworks of the corps’ troops, after the men manning them had to be sent to reinforce the left flank. Now, however, the men were back, and the full strength of XII Corps was ready to retake their lost positions.
Bombarding the Confederate occupied breastworks, the guns of XII Corps gave their enemies a hard time. Feeling the effects of Union guns, and already knowing that they had a morning attack scheduled, the men of the Second Corps started to rush out of their positions and attack the Union line in front of them.
Once more a deadly fight occurred, as Confederate soldiers raced up the wooded hill and took in the hot volleys of the Union defenders. This time, however, the Second Corps had a harder time, as the full strength of XII Corps was now against them. This resulted in a bloody affair, as both sides poured out volley after volley onto one another. The Second Corps made determined charges up the hill, but were repulsed by the well-entrenched forces of XII Corps, who had been reinforced with some units from VI Corps.
Nearly several hours of fighting would occur at Culp’s Hill, and it battered the forces on both sides. At one point, a mistaken order inadvertently led the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and the 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment to think that they were being ordered to assault the enemy positions at Spangler’s Spring, on the eastern base of the hill. Not realizing that they were really only being ordered to send skirmishers to scout the area, the two regiments formed up and charged down into awaiting Confederate infantry.
Their charge led to a massacre, as the two units were repulsed and returned to their lines with massive casualties.
However, despite the disaster with the 2nd Massachusetts and 27th Indiana, the overall situation for the Union was good.
Wave after wave of assaults were continuously repulsed by the defenders, and after some time, they were even able to push back Confederates forces from the hill.
With the Union line pushed forward, and enemy forces tired and beaten, the fighting in the area soon started to slow down, before finally ending.
Lee, who had anxiously listened to the battle from a position on Seminary Ridge, was also constantly waiting for sounds of fighting to occur on the south, where Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps should be attacking the Union left. However, as the battle raged and then softened at Culp’s Hill, no sign of fighting ever occurred along the First Corps positions.
Finding no success on the right, and seeing Longstreet hesitate in attacking the bad terrain of the left, Lee decided to formulate a new plan against his enemy. Studying the situation carefully, he soon realized that his enemy could not defend all his fronts, and must have been taking men from some parts of the line in order to strengthen his flanks. The battle on Culp’s Hill would have most likely occupied some of the Union reserves, while the previous day’s fighting on the left would have made their enemy reinforce that area too. Believing that most of the Union’s men concentrated on their flanks, Lee assumed that the Union center would be undermanned and without reserves to support it.
Because of this belief, Lee turned his attention towards Cemetery RIdge, which was the Union fishhook’s center line. Studying the terrain, and probably remembering how one of the brigades of the Third Corps managed to reach the ridge’s crest and temporarily capture some Union guns the previous day, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia began formulating his plan to deal a deadly blow against, what he assumed, was the Union weak point.
Consulting with Longstreet, Lee elaborated his battle plan to his most trusted and capable senior commander. The plan was to have the newly arrived and fresh division of Major General George Pickett, of First Corps, combine with a reinforced division from the Third Corps and attack Cemetery Ridge.
The division joining Pickett was the one under Brigadier General James Pettigrew, who took temporary command of the division after Major General Henry Heth was wounded. To bolster the ranks of Pettigrew’s force, Major General Issac Trimble and two brigades, detached from Major General William Pender’s division, were temporarily attached. All in all, this gave the attacking force around thirteen thousand men to take the ridge.
Lee hoped that by keeping the rest of First Corps on the left, and having Second Corps continue to threaten the right, then the Union would be unable to send reserves and reinforcements to assist their center. It was a big gamble, and he was willing to take it.
Supporting the attack would have been a preliminary artillery barrage, which was to destroy any resistance and clear the way for the infantry assault. Also supporting the attack was the Cavalry Corps, under Major General J. E. B. Stuart, who had orders to not only defend the Confederate left flank from Union cavalry, but also attack the Union far right and envelop them from the rear. With three thousand five hundred cavalrymen, Lee hoped that Stuart could capture the Baltimore Pike from behind the Union lines, preventing the enemy from using their main retreat route, while also cutting off the enemy’s line of supply.
If both the infantry and cavalry assaults went according to plan and succeeded, then the Army of the Potomac would be crushed.
However, after hearing the plans Lee had, Longstreet saw the flaws of the whole operation. He made it clear to Lee that he had doubts that the infantry assault would work, and he pointed out that the two divisions would be crossing a mile long piece of open ground. Such terrain would leave the assaulting force exposed to enemy artillery from all directions, and he feared that guns stretching from Cemetery Ridge to the Round Top Hills would pummel the infantry lines to dust.
Even if the infantry managed to reach the ridge relatively intact, the Union line at the center held a strong position. It would be difficult to dislodge the enemy infantry from the ridge, amnd Longstreet saw that the only thing the attack would achieve was heavy casualties for their side.
As Longstreet famously says: “General, I have been a soldier all my life. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men arranged for battle can take that position.”
Despite his trusted commander’s negative views, Lee remained unphased and determined to execute the attack. Wanting the assault to succeed as much as possible, Lee also assigned command of the whole operation to Longstreet, who was hesitant at accepting it. Longstreet wanted Major General A. P. Hill to command, since most of the units involved were from his Third Corps. But Lee trusted Longstreet to lead, and his mind would not be changed. Being the good soldier he was, Longstreet obeyed his orders and began preparing his command for the upcoming battle.
Positioning his artillery for the preliminary bombardment, Longstreet assigned Lieutenant Colonel Edward Alexander, the First Corps artillery chief, as the officer in charge of coordinating the artillery bombardment. At his disposal were dozens of artillery batteries, whose fire was to concentrate on the copse of trees at the center of Cemetery Ridge.
The estimated number of guns deployed vary, with numbers going as high as one hundred sixty-three, and as low as one hundred forty-three. Whichever number is true, it was clear that a large number of artillery pieces, more than a hundred in number, were available and pointed at the Union center.
Once his artillery was deployed, Longstreet then focused on his infantry, which he deployed along the reverse slope of Seminary Ridge, and along the buildings of Spangler farm, both positions being a mile or more west of Cemetery Ridge. Forming his left was Pettigrew’s Division and Trimble’s brigades, which were waiting behind Seminary Ridge. Meanwhile, Pickett’s Division formed his right, and they waited on the southern end of the line at Spangler’s Farm.
With preparations done, the attack was ready to commence.
At around one o’clock in the afternoon, the first Confederate guns began to fire, their shells landing all over Cemetery Ridge. Soon, all of the batteries under Alexander’s control began raining a torrent of shell and shot on the Union center, as gun after gun fired in a seemingly endless orchestra. It was an amazing and menacing site, one that impressed both sides due to its power.
Feeling the intensity of the bombardment, the men of the Union II Corps began taking cover as best they could, with some men lying down on the ground in order to protect themselves from the exploding shells that came after them. Taken by surprise by the sudden barrage, a good number were killed where they stood or sat, with food still in their hands after enjoying an afternoon meal. Those who survived the first few shells began running back to their regiments, as men rushed out of their tents and began forming up behind the crest of Cemetery Ridge.
Surprisingly, the number of shells falling on Cemetery Ridge was not as many as expected. It soon became clear to the Union men of the line that the shells were overshooting their position and were landing to their rear. This meant that the shell flew past Cemetery Ridge and landed on the rear, where the Union supplies and auxiliary forces were. Some shells even landed on the Leister House, which was being used by Meade as his army headquarters. After having a shell burst inside the house, killing and wounding some of his staff, the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac decided to temporarily vacate the house and wait out the bombardment.
Some shells went as far as Culp’s Hill, which would have been east of Cemetery Ridge. As the bombardment continued, many of the shells bypassed the main line and struck the rear. Although these overshooting shells and shots brought destruction all over the Union rear, they nonetheless failed to achieve their main objective, which was to weaken the Union center.
Not long after the start of the bombardment, Union counter-battery fire began, adding to the noise of the afternoon. With an estimated number of one hundred three to one hundred thirty three guns assigned to batteries stretching from Cemetery Ridge to Little Round Top, with around eighty guns on or near Cemetery Ridge itself, the Union counter-fire was equally impressive.
Soon, the area between Seminary Ridge and Cemetery Ridge shook from the force of Union and Confederate artillery fire, as the two sides dueled for superiority.
Landing and exploding on top of the Confederate gun line, Union batteries managed to take out and silence a couple of Alexander’s guns. Those that missed and overshot their targets also took its toll on the awaiting infantry, who were placed behind the guns, ready to move forward once the artillery barrage ended.
Union batteries also took a heavy toll from the Confederate guns, as the shells that managed to land on Cemetery Ridge were able to knock out several gun batteries. However, these batteries were quickly replaced by reserve artillery.
Meanwhile, as the artillery duel was being fought south of Gettysburg, another important event was about to occur four miles east of the town.
Stuart’s Cavalry Corps, who had swung east to get to the Union rear, found himself in an open plain area near an intersection between the Hanover Road and Low Dutch Road. Looking at the terrain and studying the maps, Stuart realized that the Low Dutch Road led to the Baltimore Pike, which in turn led to the Union rear.
Realizing the importance of this crossroads, Stuart ordered his corps to move forward and secure it.
However, a Union cavalry force blocked his advance.
The Union Cavalry Corps’ 2nd Division, under the command of Brigadier General David Gregg, took up positions along the Rummel Farm and blocked Stuart’s path.
Initially beginning as a fight between dismounted skirmishers and horse artillery, the battle soon transitioned to fights between mounted cavalry, as Stuart’s cavalry regiments drew their sabers and charged the Union skirmishers.
Seeing this charge, Brigadier General George Custer led his brigade in a charge of their own. Slamming into one another, cavalry troopers from both sides soon fought with sabers, pistols, and carbines, as they both tried to gain the upper hand.
It was an intense fight, but in the end Confederate troops began giving ground, until most of their fighting units were forced to retreat. With Stuart defeated and the path to the Baltimore Pike block the Union cavalry managed to protect the Army of the Potomac’s rear from attack.
Now, it was up to the main portion of the army to hold off against Lee’s strong assault force.
Still under heavy fire, the Union II Corps stood strong and waited for what they knew would come. It was evident that the bombardment was a prelude to an attack, and because of this the Union forces did their best to prepare their line. Union Army’s Artillery Chief, Brigadier General Henry Hunt, soon advised battery officers to conserve their fire. If an attack was indeed coming, then he wanted the guns to have plenty of ammunition to attack the on coming infantry.
On the other side of the duel, Alexander was noticing the slackening of Union fire. Believing he had eliminated the Union guns on Cemetery Ridge, and realizing his guns were running out of ammunition, he soon sent a desperate message to Longstreet, informing the general of the situation, and that it was now the moment for the infantry to begin their attack.
Longstreet, however, was hesitant. He did not want to go with the attack, and Alexander understood his commander’s feelings, as he too had thought that such an open attack was dangerous. But such things were beyond their control and they had orders to follow.
As Confederate artillery fire began to slow down, Pickett arrived to await orders. Inquiring if he should begin his advance, Longstreet hesitated. Instead of speaking, the First Corps commander remained silent and did not reply. Only a simple nod towards the question told Pickett that he may begin the attack.
Accepting the order, Pickett replied by saying: “I shall lead my division forward, sir.” With that, he left to join his men.
The Confederate assault began at around three o’clock in the afternoon, with the infantry forming up and getting ready to go. Moving out of their positions, Pickett and Pettigrew’s Division stepped forward, while Trimble’s brigades followed behind the latter. It was an impressive sight, as organized lines of regiments surged forward to attack the Union lines. Atop Cemetery Ridge, the men of II Corps watched them move forward, with many being mesmerized by the sight.
Marching in straight and well dressed battle lines, with colors waving and officers waving their sabers, the Confederates looked as if they were going to pass for review. But they were not marching to make a show. They were marching to capture the Union center.
All in all, there were nine brigades marching out, forming a long lime whose ultimate goal was to secure Cemetery Ridge. Surprisingly, little fire came from the Union line as they advanced, further convincing Confederate commanders that the enemy guns had indeed been taken out. Little did they know, most of the battery officers were just waiting for their enemy to get closer.
Moving directly east, Pettigrew and Trimble’s forces kept a straight advance for the enemy center, while Pickett’s division initially moved in a south-east direction, before turning to a north-east march when they reached the Emmitsburg Road. So far, few casualties had been received, thus keeping morale and confidence high.
However, as Pickett’s men shifted towards Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery batteries from II Corps, as well as reserve artillery batteries deployed at the southern base of the ridge, began opening up on them. Shot and shell once more erupted from Union guns, as they began chipping off pieces from Pickett’s divisions. Soon after they began their fire, batteries from Cemetery Hill and Little Round Top took long range shots at the exposed enemy. Penetrating the Confederate ranks, the artillery fire gave heavy casualties to the assaulting force. Despite this, Pickett’s men continued their determined advance and kept their movement towards Cemetery Hill.
Union artillery fire only intensified as the Confederates got closer, as the gun commanders switched to firing canister or double-canister. Made out of a small lead ball packed into a can, canister shots were like gigantic shotgun shells. When fired, the clumped balls would spread out and tear through compact lines. Letting loose their deadly hail of fire, the guns tore holes along Pickett’s division.
Meanwhile, on the left wing of the assault, Pettigrew and Trimble’s men were just now beginning to feel the heat of the Union artillery. Moving across the Bliss farmland, the men of the left wing had been somewhat protected by smoke, which obstructed the view of Union gunners. But once their brigades marched past the farmland, they became exposed and out in the open. Training their guns on Pettigrew and Trimble’s force, Union artillery soon showered them with shell and shot, causing severe casualties.
Leading ahead with his division, Pettigew’s far left soon encountered the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which soon enfiladed Colonel John Brockenbrough’s brigade. The combined volleys from the 8th Ohio, along with the constant artillery fire from Cemetery Hill, soon proved too much for the brigade, which soon fell back after such hot bombardment.
Despite the loss of a brigade, Pettigrew continued his advance, as the whole assault force now converged towards Cemetery Hill.
Getting closer towards their objective, the Confederates soon encountered skirmishers to their front, which they quickly swept away. However, a new obstacle blocked them, one that proved more troubling than the skirmishers. A wooden fence ran against their line of assault, and in order to reach the ridge, they would have to climb over it. Such an action took time, and it allowed their forces to jumble, as they moved over the fence. This made the Confederates even more vulnerable to the enemy’s canister fire, as many fell trying to cross the fence.
Reorganizing on the other side of the fence, the Pickett’s Division tried to maintain their momentum by moving forward. Looking at their target, they sighted the copse of trees at the center of Cemetery Ridge. Aiming for that area, they went straight for the center, leaving their right flank out in the open.
Moving nearly parallel to the Union line, as they headed up in a north-east direction, they left their right exposed to Union rifle fire. Taking the opportunity before them, the left wing of the II Corps’ 2nd Division let loose volleys onto the open flank of Brigadier General James Kemper’s brigade, which was Pickett’s right wing. Enfiladed by Union infantry, the regiments of this brigade took heavy losses, which forced some units to fall back in disarray.
Seeing this retreat, the men of the 2nd Division soon began to cheer and taunt the Confederate forces.
“Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!”, they chanted, seeing how the Confederate’s assault on open ground was similar to the Union assault on Fredericksburg during the winter of the previous year.
As Pickett’s advance suffered heavily from the 2nd Division, Pettigrew’s assault was met with heavy resistance from II Corps’ 3rd Division. Occupying a rock wall, the 3rd Division’s line was connected with the 2nd Division’s position by a perpendicular rock wall, which will be dubbed as “The Angle”.
Halting before the rock wall occupied by the 3nd Division, Pettigrew’s lines soon exchanged volleys against the defenders before them. On the other part of the line, past the Angle, and along the wall occupied by the 2nd Division, Pickett’s Division finally halted and returned fire on the enemy at their front. The fight soon became intense, as hot fire from both sides killed and injured men.
Firing and advancing, Pickett’s Division soon closed the gap, moving closer and closer towards the wall occupied by the 2nd Division’s 2nd Brigade. As their enemy got nearer, they were soon supported by three guns from a severely injured Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing, of the 4th United States Artillery Regiment. Firing the canister shot at close range, Cushing’s battery managed to slow down the Confederate advance.
Bogged down by heavy Union rifle and artillery fire, it seemed like Pickett’s forces could advance no further. However, Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, whose brigade was behind Pickett’s first line, was able to return the momentum and push the remaining Confederate forces towards the wall. Leading the charge himself, his assault managed to force the 2nd Division’s brigades to retreat from the wall.
The Union line had thus been breached, and now Amistead occupied a portion of the wall at the Angle. Seeing this, the commander of the 2nd Brigade, Brigadier General Alexander Webb, rushed to his men and tried his best to reorganize them. This he did successfully, and with his regiments rallied, he tried to stabilize the line.
It now seemed that the Confederates were close to winning, as Pickett’s Division managed to penetrate two sections of II Corps’ line. Aside from Armistead’s success, another breach, this time south of the Angle and near the copse of trees, a small portion of the division had managed to capture a small portion of the wall. But this would not last long, as close-range artillery fire managed to obliterate this attacking force.
Now the only portion of the wall under Confederate control was the one occupied by Armistead, and the Union was not going to let that last.
Arriving at the scene to help plug the hole in the line, General Hancock began to order reinforcements to move in and help handle the situation. Charging the mob of Confederate soldiers, they fought them hand to hand in an intense and bloody battle. However, as Hancock sat atop his horse, commanding his men and giving orders, he made a good target for Confederate forces. Because of this, he was struck by a bullet and mortally wounded while directing regiments into the fight.
On the other side of the battle, along with his men at the captured wall, Armnistead was also struck down by a bullet. A long time close friend of Hancock before the Civil War, Armnistead would end up dying from the wound he gained after assaulting his friend’s corps.
With more and more Union regiments starting to pour into the angle, and with their commander down, Armistead’s brigade started to lose momentum and slowly fall back and retreat from the wall. Some brigades from other units attempted to assist the Confederates on the wall, but they were quickly forced to fall back due to heavy Union artillery fire. Because of this, the advantage taken at the Angle was lost, and soon the Union controlled the wall once more.
Seeing that the battle was moving towards their favor, the 3rd Brigade, from I Corps’ 3rd Division, also known as the “Vermont Brigade” rushed to the right flank of Pickett’s depleted division. This enfilading fire brought heavy casualties to the remaining Confederates, forcing them to surrender or retreat. Pickett’s Division had been defeated and was now withdrawing.
Towards the north, with Pettigrew and Trimble, their brigades saw little success and faced heavy casualties too. Engaging the men of II Corps’ 3rd Division, they were unable to get close to the wall because of the intense rifle fire brought against them. Blocked by Union infantry and rained on by Union artillery, they too were soon forced to fall back.
Having witnessed the failed attack, Lee moved towards Seminary Ridge, where he met with the remains of Pickett’s Division. The unit had taken heavy losses in the battle, with sixty percent casualties taken during the attack. Because of the horrific losses, Lee ended up blaming himself for such a disastrous attack. He then ordered the remainder of the division to reform, in case Union forces decide to press their advantage and conduct an attack of their own.
But there would be no more major fighting in the area around Seminary Ridge and Cemetery Hill, enough blood had been spilled in that area already. Some officers in the Army of the Potomac wanted to continue the fight and assault the defeated Confederates, but Meade knew better than to foolishly charge the Army of Northern Virginia while they still held strong positions.
His army was tired and battered, and although they managed to rout the Confederate attack, Meade could tell that there were still strong units within the enemy army that could hold off any counter-attack they made. Because of that, he ordered his lines to remain where they were. His forces were just as exhausted as the enemy was, and so he chose not to start another fight.
However, the assault on the Union center would not be the last engagement of that day.
Towards the south, along the Confederate left flank, the Union Cavalry Corps’ 3rd Division formed up along their enemy’s flank. Commanded by Brigadier General Judsaon Kilpatrick, the cavalry division was, during that time, not fully composed of men from his division. Kilpatrifck’s 2nd Brigade was temporarily assigned to the corps’ 2nd Division, and so he had the Reserve Brigade, under Brigadier General Wesley Meritt, attached to his division. This brigade was different from most brigades in the corps, as they were mainly composed of Regular Cavalry Regiments, instead of the usual Volunteer Cavalry Regiments.
Moving north along the Emmitsburg Road, the cavalry force stopped as they reached the Confederate right at around three o’clock in the afternoon. The forces here were under the command of Brigadier General Evander Law’s, who was commanding the division of Major General John Hood, after the latter had been injured in the fighting in the area the previous day.
Deploying his forces, Kilpatrick had Meritt’s brigade positioned on the west of the road, acting as his left wing, while the 1st Brigade, under Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth, was placed on the west of the road, thus becoming his right wing.
Skirmishing with Confederate forces at their front, an order soon came from Kilpatrick for the Reserve Brigade to advance at around four thirty in the afternoon. This advance was initially met with success, with the brigade pushing Confederate forces.
However, they were soon pushed back by the men of Brigadier General George Anderson’s brigade. Being pressed on by infantry, Meritt ordered his cavalrymen to dismount. This resulted in them being picked off and taken down by the heavy volleys of infantry fire and deadly blows of artillery. Slowly, the brigade was pushed back from their captured ground, until the Confederates managed to successfully kick them out.
A few yards to the east of the Reserve Brigade’s position, the 1st Brigade of Kilpatrick’s Division charged the Confederate forces before them.
Moving up on horseback, they were met by heavy rifle and artillery fire from Confederate positions. The brigade suffered heavy casualties during this advance, which forced its units to fall back. One of those hit during the charge was Farnsworth himself, and he ended up being injured to the point that he lost his bearing and ended up riding along Confederate lines.
Yelled at by enemy troops, they asked the officer to surrender. But Farnsworth gave them a firm refusal, before falling down and dying. This made him the last general officer to be killed at Gettysburg.
The cavalry attack on the Confederate right had been a bloody and unnecessary disaster. In the end, Kilpatrick’s division gained nothing but casualties.
With this final engagement, the last major action of the battle of Gettysburg finally ended.
The result of the day’s fighting brought on heavy casualties for the Army of Northern Virginia. During the assault against the Union center, one thousand five hundred men died, while around five thousand were captured, along with twenty-seven colors. The Union, on the other hand, lost around four thousand three hundred and fifty for II Corps alone.
All in all, the three days of fighting brought twenty-eight thousand casualties for the Confederates, and twenty-three thousand casualties for the Union. Such staggering numbers took a heavy toll on the roster of both armies, with many units being either significantly reduced or completely devastated to the point that they are no longer a significant fighting force.
With his army beaten and his corps tired, demoralized, and depleted, Lee soon made the decision to disengage and retreat from Gettysburg, before making the long march back home to Virginia. The next day, July 4, United States Independence Day, the victorious Army of the Potomac spent the day cleaning their positions and burying the dead of both sides. Aside from some shots exchanged by skirmishers, no major fighting occurred on this day.
By the evening, Lee began his retreat. Moving all his corps to Seminary Ridge, then soon marched off, under the cover of the night. When morning broke on July 5, Meade and the Army of the Potomac quickly realized that their enemy was gone.
Giving chase, Meade sent out his cavalry to block Lee’s path, while the infantry followed their defeated foe’s retreat. In a series of long marches and short engagements, Meade managed to trap the Army of Northern VIrginia in a position where their back was against the Potomac river. With no way to cross, as Union cavalry had previously burnt the only pontoon bridge, the Confederates found themselves in a bad position. However, not wanting to give up, Lee ordered his army to entrench, while his engineers built a pontoon bridge across the river.
Seeing the formidable breastworks, and knowing that an assault against them would cause heavy casualties on their forces, Meade and his generals decided to entrench in front of Lee and conduct reconnaissance to find a weak point on the enemy’s lines. But before this could happen, Confederate engineers managed to finish the bridge, and by the evening of July 13 the Confederates managed to cross the Potomac river and slip away.
Although the chase continued, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia managed to escape Meade’s Army of the Potomac in the end. Returning to Virginia,Confederate forces tried their best to heal from their defeat, as they waited for what the Union would do next.
The battle of Gettysburg is often viewed as the turning point of the civil war, however, the Union victory did not mean the end was near. Although the battle resulted in Lee ending any attempts to conduct a major offensive operation against Union territory, the war would still rage and drag on for another two years.
Battle of Gettysburg – Day 3 Written by Justin Rojo
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